National Science Standards Coming Soon

When we first started talking about national academic standards lots of people scoffed and shrugged their shoulders.  Initially national standards were just for Math and English, and many people seemed to figure that they weren’t such a big deal because it’s hard to screw up Math and English with political objectives.  So many people chose to disregard concerns we expressed about national standards and what they might mean to public education and local control of schools.

The National Academics Board on Science Education has announced that national academic standards for Science are under development and will be released soon.  The final Framework will be available in late Spring this year, with grade level specific standards following shortly thereafter.  A draft of the Framework was released in July of 2010, and can be found here.

It’s worth noting that the Framework aren’t the grade level specific academic standards.  From the National Academies website, “The conceptual framework developed by the NRC will provide an overarching vision of what it means to be proficient in science; it will rest on a view of science as both a body of knowledge and an evidence-based, model and theory building enterprise that continually extends, refines, and revises knowledge. It will present and explain the interrelationships among core ideas, concepts and practices. The framework will identify core ideas in science and key practices that can guide an effort to create a set of standards that will allow for teaching of science in greater depth. Importantly, the framework will be guided by recent research in how students learn science effectively.”

The grade level specific standards for Science will be developed by the same group that brought us the Common Core Standards for Math and English.  Those standards are supposed to be based on the Frameworks developed by the NAS.

Thus far more than 40 states have agreed to adopt and implement whatever standards and assessments Achieve and the CCSSI and their partners develop, no matter the topic.  Virginia is one of the holdouts, sort of.  The VA Dept of Ed has been quietly working to revise our state standards of learning and Curriculum Frameworks to reflect the Common Core standards even though we haven’t publicly agreed to adopt them.

If you thought national academic standards were no big thing because they were just for math and English, you thought wrong.  Science standards will be out soon and History standards will follow.  The President has made it abundantly clear that he believes national standards and assessments are necessary to fix our ailing public schools and has made them the centerpiece of his proposed revisions to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

The movement towards national academic standards, which will be defined by a national consortium, will define what your children and grandchildren learn.  Control over academic content won’t be held by state education officials who report to elected officials.  That control will rest with appointed boards that report to the NGA and the US Dept of Ed.  These boards will also have the authority to develop standards for teacher quality and to dictate what sort of data needs to be gathered on student performance both in K – 12 education and after school.

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